In a surprise decision, Baltimore's bans on tobacco and alcohol ads on outdoor boards in most areas were upheld in a two-to-one vote by the 4th District Federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Va. Most legal observers assumed the ban would be overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May in the 44 Liquormart case that a Rhode Island ban on liquor price advertising was unconstitutional. In that case, the High Court emphasized that restrictions on advertising had to be narrowly tailored and meet very specific criteria. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated an appeals court decision upholding the Baltimore cases and told the lower court to reconsider. However, the lower court decided that because alcohol and tobacco companies have other means to advertise and can still use outdoor in industrial and commercial zones, the ban was narrowly tailored. The decision is expected to revive efforts in a number of cities to approve similar bans and will likely force the High Court to again face the advertising issue, maybe as soon as this term.
Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.